Building Leadership in the Classroom and Beyond

11/29/2011 12:00 AM ,

Leadership is a journey of personal and organizational discovery. And at Marmion Academy, ours is a story of just such an adventure—for our students, faculty, and the wider academic, learning community. As a Catholic-Benedictine college preparatory school for young men, located in Aurora, Illinois, we have long been dedicated to spiritual formation, academic excellence, and leadership development. These values form the core of our mission statement and also have served as the foundation of our Leadership Education And Development (LEAD) Program. Launched in 2004, the LEAD program is just the most recent example of how we are fulfilling our commitment to develop the leaders of tomorrow, today.  

What initially began in the mid-1990s as a program focused on leadership and service has become a deeply enriching experience that challenges our students to search for opportunities to innovate, grow, and improve. In a collaboration of faculty and Marmion students, we have created a core base of leadership education with The Five Practices of Exemplary Student Leadership® at the heart of our curriculum. Built upon the solid framework of The Five Practices model and the Student Leadership Practices Inventory® (Student LPI®), our LEAD program is a two-class per week, four-year leadership studies course that is an integral part of our student’s academic education—from day one.

Initially selected for its research-based credibility, The Student Leadership Challenge has continued to prove successful engaging our young students in the study and practice of leadership development because it is so very student-focused and user-friendly. With just five easy-to-remember practices, the concepts and behaviors are easy to put into daily practice.           

Our freshman and sophomore curriculum centers on personal leadership development using a wide variety of leadership resources. This provides a thorough introduction to The Five Practices and general instruction on other components of The Student Leadership Challenge. All of this is to give every student a working knowledge of the material so that we can all begin to create a common leadership language. The Five Practices and Ten Commitments poster hangs prominently in the classroom as an additional daily reminder of the behaviors we are working to master.

Curriculum for our juniors and seniors guides them as they continue on their personal leadership development journey, adding an organizational component to their learning and understanding of what it means to be an exemplary leader. We encourage our junior students, for example, to begin journaling about how they have acted on one of The Five Practices in their daily lives. As a weekly assignment, these journal entries can then be used as a chronological reminder of how they are personally integrating and demonstrating leadership behaviors.

In their junior year, students also get their first introduction to the idea of organizational development. Study and discussion assignments use various elements of The Student Leadership Challenge—the real catalyst that helps them move from personal development to using their leadership skills in an organizational setting (e.g., at work, at church, in school, in team sports). In the last two years of our students’ leadership education, we incorporate The Student Leadership Challenge book, along with the Student LPI, as well as other books by Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner such as Credibility and The Truth About Leadership

We’ve also found a wealth of valuable resources and tools online, plus a community of other professionals who are incorporating these principles and practices in leadership education and training. The Student Leadership Challenge website has a variety of materials that support use of the Student LPI and The Five Practices model in the classroom. In addition, on the “classic” Leadership Challenge website I’ve found useful case studies and examples of how professionals in business and organizations are using the model, which I’ve used to help students see all the ways that these practices apply to real-life circumstances.

The philosophy of the LEAD program is “Teen led with adult direction”: give them ownership and let them work.The way it works at Marmion is very much a give-and-take collaboration between teacher and student—an element of the program that embodies the philosophy of The Five Practices. The focus for all of our students is a continually developing journey of leadership in action and students have consistently played an important role in shaping the program to ensure that it works for them—during their high school years and beyond. So, understanding that the best way to learn is to teach, we decided to take on the challenge of having our students teach others.

Our first foray into this unique aspect of the program was a two-day leadership training camp for students at a local middle school, grades 6–8, taught by members of the LEAD program. Our students had never done anything like this before yet they seized the opportunity to innovate—definitely Challenging the Process. Despite inexperience, personal doubts, and apprehension, they created a curriculum that was engaging as well as fun for middle school students. And when they challenged themselves and were willing to take risks venturing into unfamiliar territory, our LEAD students realized that they actually could teach a three-day leadership camp to these younger students—and have it be successful! What a great win. On the last day of the camp, I remember seeing the student camp director standing at the back of the room with a wide grin on his face. When I asked him later why he was smiling, he replied that although he had his doubts that this camp idea would work, he was so glad it had and that he was a part of it. That seemed to me, a heart encouraged!

That first camp in 2004 was just the beginning of our training legacy. By continuing to Challenge the Process, learning from experience to improve, our leadership outreach programs have become better and bigger, involving more and more students, and reaching even further into the community. For middle school students, for example, what began as an initiative by our senior students now has our sophomore students running the camp, with the assistance and support of our upper class students as mentors. In fact, our sophomore students are excitedly awaiting the arrival of a new group of next generation leaders at our 8th Annual Middle School Summer Leadership Camp.

The Student Leadership Challenge and The Five Practices have now become a system wide process of leadership learning at Marmion Academy. We are currently in a three-year partnership with a local elementary school, providing custom leadership training onsite and via Skype for their 7th and 8th grade students. We also have completed our 5th Annual Adult Training Seminar, a one night per week, 3-week program. Senior students present and discuss a new leadership topic each week while junior students provide the activities to reinforce the topic presentation. In addition, we have continued our own peer leadership training within the LEAD program. And as part of our Marmion Mentors Program and freshman orientation, junior and senior LEAD students (our Marmion Mentors) lead small group discussions around The Five Practices model and the behaviors exemplified by students at Marmion. 

The core of Marmion’s LEAD program is to provide our students with real-world opportunities to explore the leadership theories taught in the classroom and bring The Five Practices to life by applying them in their daily lives. Indeed, several of our LEAD students featured in this video really tell the story best.

Like LEAD students Jeff Winkle and David Thielen portray in the video, the level of confidence our young leaders gain from their experiences in this program is a testament to the power of The Student Leadership Challenge. Our students feel empowered as they take on the responsibility of leadership training for others, setting the example as they Model the Way. They are reaching a broad audience of younger students, peers, and adults with confidence in their belief that everyone has the potential to lead—Enabling Others to Act. And they have incorporated The Five Practices into their everyday life, evidenced in the many ways they inspire their fellow students, coworkers, and teammates as they Encourage the Heart. 

The Five Practices of Exemplary Student Leadership model has given Marmion’s young students one more set of tools in their leadership arsenal. When they present this material to others they demonstrate a depth of knowledge far beyond their chronological age. I’ve watched them grow and mature as young leaders, not afraid to challenge the process, but also with an understanding that they must walk the talk and model the way. 

Upon graduation from Marmion Academy, our LEAD students are self-disciplined, self-motivated, and self-aware. They are compassionate, kind, and genuinely care for others. And we believe that these are the leadership qualities that set our LEAD students on the right path to provide the credible leadership our world needs to lead people, manage projects, and make meaningful contributions to the community.

Vince Bellafiore is Director of the Leadership Education And Development (LEAD) Program at Marmion Academy in Aurora, IL, teaching a curriculum-based leadership program to high school students. He joined the Marmion staff after a career serving as a Sergeant with the Batavia Police Department. Vince has a Master of Science in Management from National-Louis University, and is a Student Leadership Challenge Certified Facilitator. He can be reached at vbellafiore@marmion.org.

Category: Success Stories

What they are saying...

"Why wait to learn leadership in the workplace? Students can learn how to lead by using Kouzes and Posner's five proven leadership practices. [This] is the perfect guide for...[those] seeking to develop themselves for leadership."
– Howard T. Prince II
University of Texas, Austin

What they are saying...

"I've been teaching leadership classes for twenty years, and The Five Practices are, hands down, the best tool for helping students see both their inherent strengths as leaders as well as to further develop their skills."
– Britt Andreatta
University of California, Santa Barbara

What they are saying...

"[The Student Leadership Challenge] (book) is a gift to university educators who teach leadership courses or develop trainings. workshops, and retreats."
– Laura Osteen
Florida State University

What they are saying...

Corey Hill "The greatest part about being in the virtual community was being able to hear the instructors, talk about the material we were discussing, as well as having our own discussion as a class with our other classmates over chat. You got a lot of interaction with the material, a lot of takes and nuances on what other people were taking away from the material that I don’t think you would get in a traditional classroom setting."
– Corey Hill
Oklahoma State University

What they are saying...

"The Student Leadership Practices Inventory is the best tool I have used to help students assess their leadership effectiveness because it translates the concept of leadership into actions and relationships. By defining and measuring specific leadership behaviors, the Student LPI allows students to see how they are doing as leaders and to determine how they can improve."
– Cathy Early
National Interfraternity Conference

What they are saying...

"The student examples inspire the reader and show us that running into bumps along the way is not only normal, but that you can approach the challenges with confidence and practical solutions."
– Amanda Crowell Itliong
Stanford University

What they are saying...

"The authors set out to teach college student leaders to understand what it takes to be an effective leader, to inspire them to find their own unique skills and abilities, and to explore and discover where their leadership will make the most difference in the lives of others and in the success of their organization.  I believe they have succeeded."
– William L. Kibler
Mississippi State University
NASPA Journal, 2009, Vol. 46, no. 4

What they are saying...

"The experience of the Certified Leadership Training left me feeling more confident and equipped to provide better leadership training to my student leaders."
– Erica Lara
Nyack College, NY

What they are saying...

"The 5 practices are a must!  Demonstrating and understanding the [concept that] 'leadership is an art' that must be taught to our students was incorporated throughout the training."
– Jerry Alva
Texas A&M International University

What they are saying...

"This is a great opportunity for any person looking to develop a program that involves The Student Leadership Challenge."
– Miguel Trevino
Texas A&M International University

What they are saying...

"I am more equipped to develop a leadership program that will have a positive impact on the students at my institution."
– Andrew Moyer
Delaware Valley College, PA

What they are saying...

"Employers are looking for students who have content knowledge and practical experience working in teams and leading others. The Student Leadership Challenge is an excellent example of the behaviors needed to accomplish extraordinary tasks that can get you noticed by a potential employer."
– Kevin Bailey, vice president for student affairs
University of West Florida

What they are saying...

"Beth and Gary are so personable that I was totally comfortable asking anything. For a program with such vigor, these two facilitators do an amazing job of creating a safe, fun, and functional learning environment."
– Certified Facilitator Training participant

What they are saying...

"The Student Leadership Challenge is a gift to university educators who teach leadership courses or develop trainings, workshops, and retreats."
– Laura Osteen
Florida State University

What they are saying...

"Developing transformative learning environments for leadership education begins when we embrace the use of emerging technologies and social media to enhance student learning."
– Todd Foley, assistant director for the Student Involvement Center
Saint Louis University

What they are saying...

"Leadership is a journey of personal and organizational discovery… understanding that the best way to learn is to teach, we decided to take on the challenge of having our students teach others.
"
– Vince Bellafiore
Marmion Academy

What they are saying...

"We know that The Student Leadership Challenge is making a difference. Through continuous coaching and intervention, with the use of the Student LPI, we are helping to keep our young people engaged in the pursuit of exemplary leadership."
– Melvin Chia
Lifeskills Enrichment, Singapore

What they are saying...

"The Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership are everywhere. And as important as it is to exhibit those qualities yourself as a leader, it is just as critical to see them in others, and to be driven and inspired by other people’s leadership.
"
– Nina Vasan and Jennifer Przybylo
authors of Do Good Well

What they are saying...

"Consider the college campus as a leadership laboratory—a place where students have multiple opportunities to practice their leadership skills and explore and develop their leadership identity.
"
– Marcy Levy Shankman
Cleveland Leadership Center

What they are saying...

"I am so passionate about leadership and making a difference and I truly, honestly, wholeheartedly believe in The Student Leadership Challenge model. It is complete, yet simple enough, for all to understand. SO very excited to share this model with others, both on-campus and in the community.
"
– Suzanne Von Behren, RN, BSN, University Wellness Services
Northwest Missouri State

What they are saying...

"I feel that a program like this could really work in helping to eventually change our culture within our schools, homes, and businesses. Although I am not a supervisor, I plan to implement the model fully in our office and look forward to sharing it with coworkers. I love The Student Leadership Challenge model and am so excited!
"
– Suzanne Von Behren, RN, BSN, University Wellness Services
Northwest Missouri State

What they are saying...

"The Student Leadership Challenge is one of the most robust teaching and learning opportunities we have as educators. The Five Practices are identifiable and learnable skills allowing an individual to improve by receiving feedback and observation and by setting goals.
"
– Jason R. Pierce, director of education
Alpha Kappa Psi Professional Business Fraternity

What they are saying...

"And so again [leadership development] becomes foundational, it becomes a foundational understanding of living your values, of challenging the process to make things better, enabling others to act. It’s not just delegating, it’s about giving people the passion and the power to it themselves.
"
– Matt Baker, Vice President of Student Affairs
Northwest Missouri State University

What they are saying...

"Within the academy, we are constantly seeking additional tools to assist us in teaching the valuable lesson of leadership development for students. The Student Leadership Challenge is an excellent resource to assist in the important goal of helping students to become better leaders and, ultimately, stellar citizens in the communities of the world.
"
– Victor K Wilson, vice president for student affairs
The University of Geogia

What they are saying...

"Student leadership challenges are quite similar to adult challenges, and yet they differ as wel­­l– in scale and in the power of peer perspective. Kouzes and Posner have constructed a wide and sturdy bridge across these worlds. My college students will find relevant lessons and great inspiration in the diverse and compelling stories that are retold. We’d have a lot less adult leadership problems if more teachers and students used this great book.
"
– Dan Mulhern, Distinguished Practitioner of Law and Business
University of California, Berkeley, and author Everyday Leadership: Getting Results in Business, Politics and Life

What they are saying...

"Kouzes and Posner provide a comprehensive, research-based, and values-driven resource that is packed with real-life examples. This book makes leadership highly accessible to college students and is sure to empower the next generation to tap into their potential as leaders and social change agents.
"
– Jennifer R. Keup, director
National Resource Center for The First-Year Experience and Students in Transition

What they are saying...

"The Five Practices has provided a framework for students to reflect on their leadership experience and restructure their philosophy and theories relating to leadership as they challenge themselves through these five practices.
"
– Amy Kuo, Somchanhmavong, associate director
Service-Learning, Public Service Center, Cornell University

What they are saying...

"As a Student Leadership Challenge Certified Facilitator I am excited about using these books to further aid me in developing curriculum and giving our students a tool to acknowledge and reflect on the concepts as they pertain to their own capacity to lead effectively."
– Deborah Mann, Student Leadership Challenge Certified Facilitator
BOLD Leadership Program, Cornell University

What they are saying...

"In our public service leadership programs and courses we will be able to easily use the many relevant and engaging activities and reflection exercises provided in this workbook. It will enable our students to better engage with and benefit from The Student Leadership Challenge, and will also help foster their personal leadership development journeys."
– Jon McConnell, associate director,
Haas Center for Public Service, Stanford University

What they are saying...

"Every young person dreams of doing something extraordinary. The Student Leadership Challenge provides everything this generation needs to turn a dream into reality."
– Brian C. Warren Jr., executive director
Sigma Phi Epsilon Fraternity

What they are saying...

"A book of genuinely effective activities for enagaging students at all levels, turning the novice facilitator into a pro. It includes easy-to-use concepts that readily apply to life as a leader, and is a real difference maker that fosters success!"
– Randy D. Grimes, human resources director
Duke University

What they are saying...

"A fantastic resource for leadership educators looking to further develop students’ understanding of The Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership in a tangible, hands-on way! It offers engaging activities that are sure to make an impact on your student leaders. This activity book is a great supplement to The Student Leadership Challenge, bringing the original concepts off the page and into the real world.
"
– Kimberly Piatt, coordinator of leadership development
The College at Brockport.

What they are saying...

"An excellent one-stop resource for activities to engage student of different learning styles. Students will find the experiential nature of the activities easy to comprehend and most importantly be able to see the relevance and application of The Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership."
– Melvin Chia, principal consultant
Lifeskills Enrichment

What they are saying...

"From what, to so what, and now what, this guide helps take educators on a journey of not only understanding The Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership but also specifically on how to apply, practice, and teach the nuances of these exemplary leadership ways of being."
– Laura Osteen, professor of higher education, Florida State University
and director, Florida State’s Center for Leadership and Civic Education

What they are saying...

"The Facilitation and Activity Guide would have helped me not only to develop a better leadership program but to be a better leader myself. For those administering The Five Practices, this guide ‘Models the way’ and will be one of your best coaches."
– Sam Eriksmoen, former director, Emerging Leaders Program
University of North Dakota

What they are saying...

"Educators working at all levels will benefit from [The Facilitation and Activity Guide]. It is practical, applicable to diverse sectors, and works."
– Katie Burke, director, L.E.A.D. (Leadership Education & Development)
Florida Atlantic University